Solstice, SCOTUS, and sea turtles
Last week I decamped to the beach in North Carolina last week with my family, and until the Roe news broke on Friday I could not have felt more relaxed. I needed some R&R, after a soul-crushing spring spent helping my younger kid survive the Hunger Games that is college admissions in 2022. (I could write a book. Should I? Maybe I’ll just vent in another installment of this newsletter.)
Rare shot of me in beach relaxation mode, before Friday’s SCOTUS fuckery, in my favorite Trashcan Sinatras tee.
I’d meant to send this newsletter out on the summer solstice, but time got away from me and here we are, a week later, in a post-Roe world that looks pretty scary right now. Like many of you, no doubt, I’m still grappling with what SCOTUS has done and where it leaves us and what to do with all the anger and fear it has unleashed—and how to channel that anger and fear into action beyond shouting “Go vote!” on social media. (But yes, please do #VoteBlue2022, whatever else you do. Shitposting about Democrats’ inaction will not get us anywhere.)
In all my decades of life so far, through my child-bearing years and now beyond them, and having seen and lived through many forms of misogyny, I have never felt so much like a second-class citizen in my own country. Nobody should be able to tell me, or my daughter, or you or anybody what we and cannot do with and for our bodies.
I worry most of all about younger people—those who might get pregnant and those who care about them—and about everybody without the resources to access the care they need when they need it. I don’t know what else to say right now except that I do not believe this SCOTUS decision will be the final word. It can’t be. A handful of politicized theocrats do not get to decide how the rest of us ought to live.
(Photo by my dad, who’s spent 60 years teaching constitutional law and the Supreme Court.)
If I hadn’t been at the beach, I would have gone to the Association of University Presses annual conference, held in person in DC this year. I used to cover it every year during my decade at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and I’d hoped to be able to go and reconnect with sources and friends and catch up with the world of UP publishing, which continues to be under-covered by the media. There are good and useful stories to be told from that world, and I hope I can find time to tell some of them, maybe in this newsletter if I don’t find other outlets. If you have ideas for stories on the publishing/library beats that you’d like to see me write about, let me know. I’m all ears.
What I’ll be working on in July:
—a big review assignment that I’m excited about but can’t talk about because it’s in the works, so the cone of silence must remain in place for now. Details TK, as we say in the trade.
—next-book ideas! It’s time. (Past time, really, but self-flagellation won’t get me any closer to ideas polished enough to pitch agents.)
What I’ve been reading/watching:
I’ve been craving escapes from the news even more than usual this month, and for the first time in a long while had stretches of free reading time. So I dug into a couple of 500-page novels:
Jade City by Fonda Lee (library hardcover). This is the World Fantasy Award-winning first installment in The Green Bone Saga, which Lee calls “the modern urban fantasy gangster saga of my heart.” (Imagine a postcolonial version of Martin Scorsese’s “The Godfather” crossed with John Woo’s “The Killer,” with magical abilities jacking up the gangster-family action.) I wanted to love this book, having heard good things about it from S.A. Chakraborty, whose Islamic folklore-inspired Daevabad Trilogy helped sustain me through some rough patches in recent years. I did admire the clever setup of Jade City and cared about some of the characters, but got bogged down by uneven pacing and what felt like too much exposition. I don’t know if I’ll read the other two books in the trilogy. Maybe. As a lifelong reader of fantasy, I want to keep up with what’s being written in the genre now, and Lee’s one of the writers who’s been shaping and expanding the field.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (paperback). My college-age daughter loves almost anything set in World War II-era France, and she adores this book so much she’s reread it multiple times and is now reading it in French. (As a French and theater major, she has the linguistic chops for it.) So of course I had to read it too (mais en Anglais). I read most of it at the beach last week, sitting on a chaise longue in the shade on the deck and gazing out at the Atlantic every now and then to give my eyes a break. Most impressive, to me, is how well Hannah evokes the daily compromises, deprivations, hardships, and horrors the French endured under Nazi occupation.
How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Schur (audiobook). Schur created the TV show “The Good Place” (which I have never seen but may watch after I finish this book), and this wry and winsome book derives from the research he did for the show. I’m about halfway through the audiobook and have found it both edifying and entertaining.
Stranger Things, Season 4. Far more entertaining and less monstrous, demons and all, than 2022 feels. I do kind of miss the 80s, though I don’t miss the way my hair looked then.
I’ll leave you with a photo we took last week of a patient at the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in Surf City, NC. (Shout-out to Michael, our tour guide, who just graduated from NC State with a degree in environmental science and who’s already a master of how to talk to the public about conservation. People like Michael give me hope.)
Swim on, friends.
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